Igor Shesterkin, the prized prospect goalie for the New York Rangers, got the call to the NHL on Monday morning. He’ll join both Alexandar Georgiev and Henrik Lundqvist, which means this team is carrying three goalies for the time being. That’s going to wreak havoc on fantasy owners and their starts, particularly those in weekly leagues. For those with rosters locking on Monday nights, you could easily have a goalie go all week without a start, regardless of which Rangers goalie you own. Good luck with all that.
I suspect one of Georgiev/Lundqvist will be traded, but that’s just my guess.
Sidney Crosby joined the Penguins on their road trip so it appears as though his return is on the horizon. Whether it’s Tuesday in Vegas or on the weekend either in Arizona or Colorado, Pittsburgh’s captain should be in the lineup before the end of the week.
Peter Laviolette was fired as head coach of the Nashville Predators. There has been no replacement named yet so I’m going to wait until we see who is next in line. In the meantime, you can read Dobber’s take here.
A player for the Flint Firebirds pulled The Michigan in a game and then added his on spice to the celebration. This rules:
The Svechnikov + Moonwalk Celly = 😱
(🎥 @FlintFirebirds/Firebirds Hockey Network) pic.twitter.com/Hfr7t1oWL0
— NHL (@NHL) January 6, 2020
Sami Niku has been recalled by the Winnipeg Jets and he played on Monday night. He probably should have been with the team all year but that doesn’t mean he’ll have a lot of fantasy value. He’ll be firmly behind Neal Pionk for PP minutes and outside of that, there isn’t a lot of value to be had playing on this roster.
Both Ron Hainsey and Dylan DeMelo were skating in practice for the Senators, indicating their imminent return. Both guys have value in deeper leagues so check to see if you need what they offer and if they were dropped when injured.
Ilya Kovalchuk is going to get a chance to make an impact right out of the gate as he was slotted on both the top line and “top” PP unit on Monday night for the Habs. It was uncertain how they’d mix him into the lineup, and it appears it’s by throwing him right into the fire.
I’m not sure how long this is going to last unless Kovalchuk shows something right out of the gate. This is a team grasping at straws to stay in the playoff hunt, they can’t afford to let him take 5-6 games to get acclimated. In that sense, if he doesn’t get going immediately, we could see him down on the third and fourth lines in a week’s time.
I did watch the game and Kovalchuk, at the least, looked engaged and wasn't afraid to rip his still-lethal shot. He dove into the net, taking a cross-check on the way, looking to dig a rebound. He assisted on Ben Chiarot's second goal of the game, to boot. If he can do both all these things on most nights, maybe this could work.
Edmonton went into Toronto and McDavid-Draisaitl did what McDavid-Draisaitl do. To whit:
McDavid with an absolute highlight reel goal.
— Leafs ALL Day (@LeafsAllDayy) January 7, 2020
McDavid had 1+3, Draisaitl had 1+1 (as did Alex Chiasson), while Kailer Yamamoto, Darnell Nurse, and Oscar Klefbom also all scored. Klefbom added four shots and three blocks on the way. Just a huge night.
Pierre Engvall had another good game for the Leafs, having 1+1 while playing over 16 minutes. He might not get much PP time, but he’s making the most of his 5v5 time.
A good read from Hannah Stuart from Elite Prospects (our own Cam Robinson also writes there) on what went wrong with Team USA at the World Juniors. Membership required and recommended.
The long and short of it is that outside of luck – and there’s a lot of it in a 10-day hockey tournament – talent has often been lacking from Team USA offerings, be it at the WJC or the Olympics. Remember when Phil Kessel was left at home at the World Cup? Or maybe when Brooks Orpik was sent to the Olympics over Dustin Byfuglien and Keith Yandle? If you’re Team Canada, and you have enough depth that you can play Patrice Bergeron on the wing, you can get away with a roster mistake. If you’re most other teams, you probably can’t. Anyway, go read her and Cam's work.
On Boxing Day, I wrote about a few players I was going to keep a particular eye on at the World Juniors. Let’s talk about them.
Rasmus Kupari didn’t have much chance to impress given that he was injured in the team’s first game. I’m sure the Kings wanted to get a good look at him too, and, well, that’s just not going to be the case. Unfortunate all around.
What I was told about Arthur Kaliyev was that he’s a great offensive talent whose efforts are limited to one end of the ice. This may be true, but it was hard to tell considering he played 10 minutes, eight minutes, 12 minutes, 13 minutes, and 13 minutes in their games. It’s worth noting that he was lighting it up so much that the team was forced to move him up the lineup, and he finished third in team scoring despite averaging 11 minutes a night. Kaliyev was fantastic offensively, but he was never really in a position to show off any defensive prowess, so it’s hard to say whether he’s improved on his supposed one-dimension. At least he was as advertised?
Ty Smith wasn’t really noticeable most games of Canada’s that I watched, but I guess that’s not a bad thing? At least it wasn’t awful turnover after awful turnover. This isn’t a team that’s relying on their defence for offence, anyway. Their job is to get the puck to the super-talented forwards, and Smith seems to have done that in spades.
It’s at this point that I say I’m not a prospect guy. I leave the scouting to others much more capable than me. What I will say is that after two World Juniors, I’m not overly impressed with K’Andre Miller. I should say, I don’t envision him as the top-pair stud others do. It might be a matter of preference; mine is a defenceman who stays patient, and sits back almost to a fault. A defenceman who lets the game come to them rather than force it. Miller does a great job of being aggressive and forcing turnovers, but that same aggressiveness leaks out when he has the puck, and that leads to unforced errors. It’s a nitpick, but when we’re trying to project whether a guy will be a number-1 defenceman or a number-3 defenceman, those nitpicks matter a lot. I can see the upside if he cleans that up but I think he needs to pick his spots better if he wants to be a reliable 24-minute blue liner.
No goals and two assists probably isn’t the World Juniors Raphael Lavoie envisioned and it’s hard to say anyone on Canada has been exceptional outside of the top of the roster. There’s just such a big gap between players like Lafreniere/Hayton and the rest. It’s not to say that Lavoie has looked bad, but like Smith, he just hasn’t stood out.
Moritz Seider is definitely as advertised. He may take some time to grow into his skills and maybe the skating needs some work, but it’s obvious what the Red Wings saw in him when they jumped on him so high. It may have been the best team that Germany has offered the WJC’s in my lifetime, but a lot of that has to be attributed to their defenceman who was regularly playing 24, 25 or more minutes. I said I wanted to see him control the play and that he most certainly did. He knew when to get the puck up to his talented forwards and when he needed to do it himself. It’s not that he was playing 25 minutes a game because he was playing for Germany; it’s hard seeing any defenceman in this tournament superseding him on the depth chart, regardless of nation. He looks like a special talent.
It was an incredibly entertaining tournament regardless of the result. Though I’m sure people like Cam appreciate the ability to sleep again.
One thing I will say is this: I’ve often railed that cross-checks should be called more often in the NHL but after watching a penalty be called every time some breathes in the World Juniors, maybe I’m fine with NHL refereeing. The action of the games was entertaining, but watching like 14 power plays a game was not. I think what did it for me was Joe Veleno getting a penalty for a stick lift in the gold medal game. A literal stick lift – not a hook under the hands. Yeah, I’ll take as little of that as possible, thanks.